Three Years Later: There's Something About Mary, the "Prostitute" in the Sean Suiter Case (Part 2)
A closer look at the story behind why Detectives Sean Suiter and David Bomenka were on Bennett Place and how BPD homicide sought to bury the truth.
This is the second article in a three-part series taking a new look at the Sean Suiter case. Part 1 critically revisited the assumptions guiding the leading theories of Suiter's death, including that he was shot with his own weapon.
On August 22, 2017, a 15 year old named Jeffrey Quick was shot and killed near the intersection of Bennett Place and North Fremont Place in West Baltimore. Quick's murder made headlines and TV news. He was so young; his friend spoke out about the senselessness of his killing.
The Quick case popped up on the margins of the death of Detective Sean Suiter, who was shot just down the block a few months later. A WMAR story first pointed to the connection between the two cases in October 2018, as Suiter news was quieting down.
Newly obtained court files further suggest the Quick case is significant to the Suiter investigation, and officials sought to bury that link. The new evidence also points to a possible origin for the curious story of "Mary" the "prostitute," who was identified by the Independent Review Board (IRB) that investigated Suiter's death in 2018.
According to the IRB, Detective David Bomenka told investigators that Suiter dragged him to Bennett Place two days in a row in search of a prostitute named Mary, "who frequented the area where the murders occurred, and... might have relevant information." ("Prostitute" is the language used by the IRB.) Suiter was following up on a 2016 triple homicide on Bennett Place that remained unsolved.
Yet, Suiter's case files did not mention anyone named Mary, and he had not been to Bennett Place in nearly two months. So the IRB determined Suiter made up the story about Mary-the-prostitute as a pretext to stage his suicide to look like a homicide-on-duty, with Bomenka as a witness. Suiter was depressed about the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) federal investigation, and this would leave his family with ample benefits, the IRB argued.
The new evidence suggests that Mary may not have been entirely fictional. There was a person fitting her description who was crucial to the Quick murder case, which belonged to Bomenka. More generally, the Quick case offers some new ways to look at what happened on Bennett Place and how it was covered up.
The Triple Homicide Story
BPD only told the public a few pieces of information during the first week after Suiter was shot: 1) Suiter was with another detective who rendered aid; 2) police were looking for a suspect, a "Black man in a black jacket with a white stripe"; and 3) Suiter was on Bennett Place "canvassing" for one of his cases from 2016, the triple homicide.
Media scrutinized the police on the first two points, but not the third. Court records did confirm that Suiter was a lead detective on a 2016 triple homicide on Bennett Place, and the police made this the official story of why he was there that day. The Baltimore Sun referred to the triple homicide case in nearly every story on the case.
Then, the IRB report, released in August 2018, insisted that Suiter wasn't actually investigating his triple homicide case when he was shot and he made up the Mary-the-prostitute story in order to trick Bomenka, dragging him to the scene two days in a row. BPD never shared any video to confirm the detectives visited Bennett Place the day before. And Bomenka was the IRB's only source for the Mary story.
More important, the IRB report claimed there was no evidence in the case files that Suiter was working on the triple homicide case before he was shot. Yet, this was BPD's official story from the very beginning.
One week after the shooting, Commissioner Kevin Davis gave away that there may have been another reason the detectives were on Bennett Place. He dropped the hint briefly during an intense press conference on November 22. He first laid out his homicide-by-stranger theory. Then, he dropped the bomb that Suiter was scheduled to testify before a GTTF-related grand jury the day after he was shot.
In the middle of all that, Davis also briefly mentioned that Suiter's "partner investigated a murder in that immediate area as well" on the day Suiter was shot. This went unreported; articles the next day still referred to the triple homicide as the reason the detectives were on Bennett Place.
Later, the IRB confirmed Davis' statement: the detectives were investigating "the December 2016 triple murder, as well as a more recent murder in the area that was Detective Bomenka’s responsibility." Neither BPD nor the IRB disclosed the name of Bomenka's case, and nobody asked.
Then, in October, WMAR-TV reported the detectives were actually both on Bennett Place working on Bomenka's case, the shooting death of 15 year-old Quick only three months before. According to WMAR, documents show that a witness in the Quick case "was located the morning Suiter was shot but refused to cooperate with the homicide operations team dispatched to bring her in." So Suiter was assigned to help Bomenka at the last minute.
If true, WMAR's story shattered much of the IRB's theory. Suiter wasn't planning his suicide on Bennett Place for two days, because he wasn't planning on being there. Unfortunately, WMAR didn't share any documents to prove its claims, and the story was sourced by the Suiter family legal team, which had obvious bias, and an anonymous source "close to the investigation."
Courthouse files from the Quick case do provide more context. The files show that the Quick murder was entirely Bomenka's case. The detective arrived on the scene just after the shooting and took over. On September 15, Bomenka arrested a 38-year old man named Kenneth Maddox for Quick's murder.
Neither BPD nor the State's Attorney's Office (SAO) announced the Maddox indictment, as they typically do with such high-profile homicides. They may have stayed quiet because Bomenka's case was falling apart. The Maddox case hinged entirely on the testimony of one witness, a woman whom I will call L. to protect her identity. On September 12, files indicate that L. identified Maddox as Quick's shooter based on a photo array, with no details about what she witnessed in the statement of probable cause. Maddox pled not guilty on November 3, two weeks before Suiter's shooting, and the case was transferred to circuit court.
After Suiter's death, L. failed up to show for the first trial, so it was rescheduled. She requested witness relocation assistance but failed to follow up on that. Then SAO held in her prison for more than two weeks. She still wouldn't cooperate. Without its witness, SAO dropped the charges against Maddox.
Interestingly, L. had been previously arrested for prostitution—and only prostitution. It would seem like an extraordinary coincidence for Suiter to have invented a story about looking for a witness, a prostitute, for his case on Bennett Place, when Bomenka was, in real life, looking for a witness, a prostitute, for his case on Bennett Place. Then again, BPD and the IRB have asked the public to believe a lot of unlikely-to-impossible stories in this case.
An easier, more straightforward story would be that the two officers were working on Bomenka's case, as WMAR reported, the more recent and active case, with a trial coming up and an uncooperative witness. And Bomenka transferred his story to Suiter when speaking with investigators.
Then again, who knows what Bomenka really told investigators? The IRB wasn't a trustworthy narrator. As reported in Part 1, the IRB report carefully omits unfavorable audio and video information about Bomenka's actions after Suiter's shooting.
As for Maddox, after he was released, he told his story to Fox News about having been wrongfully accused of Quick's murder. He talked about how he had turned his life around. Court records show that he had been arrested in the past for drug offenses, but it had been nine years since his last arrest. And he had no violent offenses on his record.
A year after he was released, Maddox was shot dead on Bennett Place, at the same intersection where Quick was killed.
For months, the Baltimore Sun reported that Suiter and Bomenka split up around an L-shaped vacant lot, where Suiter claimed to see a suspicious stranger, in order "to cover different exits." The IRB confirmed this story.
As discussed in Part 1, the idea that the detectives were staking out the lot demands scrutiny. The surveillance video shows Suiter standing behind a white van in full view of the vacant lot to his left. He has no cover. Meanwhile, the video shows Bomenka standing or pacing on the corner of Bennett Place and North Schroeder Streets, in the wide open, not taking cover in any direction.
If we consider the detectives were working on Bomenka's case that day, with Suiter providing back-up, an alternative theory is that Suiter was staking out the corner where Bomenka was standing. From behind the van, he would not have been visible to anyone on that corner. Suiter was often positioned at the left edge of the van, where he could have observed the corner. It's just a theory, but so was the idea that they were staking out the lot. Journalism based on police speculation (or misinformation) is not more valid than journalism using our own eyes and brains.
Spotlight on Homicide
BPD's homicide department has largely escaped scrutiny in terms of questions of corruption and cover-up in Suiter's death. Homicide was not only overseeing the Suiter investigation, interviewing Bomenka and other witnesses, but it was also also the department that supervised Suiter and Bomenka. Homicide supervisors would have known what the detectives were doing and the progress of the Quick investigation.
Homicide also informed the IRB report, which explicitly thanked Homicide Detective James Lloyd for his helpfulness. Lloyd was indicted last year for kidnapping and extortion.
Homicide was a source for a lot of the Suiter-related information up the chain of command and to reporters. After three years, it's easy to forget what we learned when about Suiter's death. During the first week, we learned that Suiter might have stepped out of his car and been shot, or knocked on a door and been shot, via some of the same sources that later indicated suicide. The theory that Suiter ran into the vacant lot before he was shot, out of view of people and cameras, did not emerge until many months later.
Homicide detectives were involved in perhaps the most obvious Suiter cover-up, the impossible bullet discovery. A homicide detective was filmed by a TV news camera finding a bullet in the vacant lot and having a "eureka" moment, even though bullets can't be ballistically matched to BPD weapons, especially not on sight. One of his former homicide colleagues (who had recently moved to BPD's special investigations team) was filmed digging in the dirt for the bullet in the same video.
Why were these long-time, experienced homicide detectives looking in the dirt for evidence without crime scene technicians, and after the scene had been scoured for days? The BPD ballistics story was so flawed the IRB had to come up with its own flawed story to prove Suiter's gun killed him, as reported in Part 1, which includes more details on the ballistics evidence.
The only official story to emerge early on and remain consistent was that Suiter was on Bennett Place working on his triple homicide case. Within a week, even Commissioner Davis knew there was another case in question. What was it about the Quick case that BPD felt it had to hide?
More than two years ago, I published a conclusion to my 2018 series on this case, determining Suiter's death was most likely a homicide, not a suicide, and that BPD sought to cover it up. The video and audio evidence indicated to me that Suiter was shot or fired at before he ran into the lot. Even Bomenka's actions in the video supported this, as detailed in Part 1. At the least, the evidence did not support the IRB's suicide narrative.
I couldn't say, then or now, that Suiter's death was GTTF related. It was certainly outrageous for Commissioner Davis to deny the possibility and refuse to investigate it.
Regardless, it's been obvious to most people that the department was engaged in cover-up around Suiter's death—the impossible bullet discovery, the omission of many of Bomenka's actions from the IRB report, the missing video from a convenience store, the released video so obviously manipulated that a large tree is missing its trunk, the suppression of the Quick case, and so on. If Suiter's shooting didn't somehow, directly or indirectly, trace back to BPD or things BPD wanted kept hidden, why did the department bother with so much elaborate cover up?
Now, two city agencies are continuing to keep the case open, while pretending to investigate the same DNA evidence for two years. It seems like a way to keep the public from seeing the files, which become available when cases are closed.
The information from the Quick case doesn't get us closer to solving Suiter's death, but it does offer another place to look in terms of culpability and cover-up. We need to look at the people in the homicide department that controlled and narrated this case, including Bomenka, Lloyd, who is currently under indictment, and their supervisors. And we need to ask why BPD left the Quick case out of the official Suiter narrative.
Coming soon: Part 3 of 3: "Consequences and Casualties," the Suiter ripple effect.
In case you missed it: New article in FAIR on disability and Covid.